(CNSNews.com) – House Rules Committee Ranking Republican David Dreier (Calif.) said he is committed to doing “everything I possibly can” to prevent Democrats from using House procedural measures to pass a health care bill without actually voting on the bill.
In an exclusive interview with CNSNews.com, Dreier, a past chairman of the House Rules Committee, said he was committed to exposing a legislative tactic he described as “outrageous.”
“I am resigned to do everything I possibly can to bring down this rule,” Dreier declared. “I’ve been working overtime to do that.”
The measure in question is the Slaughter Solution, named for House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) who proposed it. It would allow the Senate health care bill to be incorporated into the Rule for the reconciliation bill coming out of the Senate. If House members vote to pass the Rule for reconciliation they, in effect, pass the Senate health care bill without actually voting on the bill -- they would instead vote on the reconciliation package.
Dreier said the House, unlike the Senate, does not have a set of Byzantine procedures that allow minority members to filibuster or otherwise block legislation procedurally. The fact that the House operates on a majority basis means that the health care bill’s opponents, such as Dreier, must take to the airwaves and rally public opposition.
“I just did an interview on Fox, just in the last few minutes, and I’ve been on all these other programs,” said Dreier on Tuesday. “Unlike the Senate, which has the filibuster, there’s majority rule in the House of Representatives. That’s the only thing there is. I am not resigned to anything other than the defeat of the rule.”
“(I am) trying to do everything that I possibly can to expose the outrageous procedure that they are trying to use to take over control of one-sixth of our economy,” he said.
“And to do everything that I can that – if they do decide to go ahead with it – to get people all across this country to call those Democrats whose names we know, who’ve indicated that they’re either wavering or had voted yes and are thinking about voting no, or voted no and may be shifting, to encourage the American people to contact them and let them know that under no uncertain terms the idea of having the federal government encroach and impose mandates like this is not acceptable,” Dreier told CNSNews.com.
CNSNews.com also asked Dreier whether the Slaughter Solution was constitutional. Some conservative legal experts, including syndicated radio host and former Justice Department Chief of Staff Mark Levin, have said the plan would violate the plain meaning of Article I, Section VII, which states in part, “…the votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.”
Dreier replied that while he was not a constitutional expert and could not say “with absolute certainty” the plan was unconstitutional, other experts were raising just such a charge.
“I think that the best way for me to put that is it’s being debated, and the question is out there,” said Dreier. “I can’t say with absolute certainty that I know it’s unconstitutional. But I can this: I know that there’s a debate on it and I think that there are serious, serious questions about that.”
Dreier explained that the issue was whether the intricacies of House procedure violated the clause which mandates that legislation pass with a vote of “yeas and nays.” He said that while “deeming” measures as having passed had been done before – like with a Slaughter Solution -- it was done with “unanimous consent” and never on so large a policy issue, leading to the questions of constitutionality.
“This is procedure,” he explained. “Deeming measures is something that has happened in the past and I know the words ‘yeas and nays’ are in the U.S. Constitution. But if you look at the pattern of what has taken place, things are done by unanimous consent. So I will say that this process has been used in the past, but never on an issue of this magnitude.”
The Senate health care bill is currently 2,074 pages long and its rules and mandates on health coverage would affect every American and give the federal government greater control over an industry that comprises about one-sixth of the U.S. economy.
Dreier, when asked by CNSNews.com, said he would “absolutely” consider joining a constitutional challenge to the bill similar to what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) mounted in opposition in 2007 to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform.
“Absolutely, of course,” he said. “It’s already an effort that is underway right now by Attorneys General from across the country and sure, I think that – and [Sen.] Orrin Hatch [R-Utah] has been immersed in this [and] I’ve talked with him about it and so, yeah.”
Dreier said that his focus was currently on generating public opposition to the plan, saying that people needed to get involved so that a constitutional challenge would not be necessary.
“I don’t even want to contemplate our going there (to court) right now,” he said. “I want to defeat this rule so that we don’t even get there. We need to do everything that we possibly can to make sure that, as Edmund Burke said, members should be informed by their constituents.”
Dreier said that Democrats did not have the votes to pass the bill and that Republicans must keep up the pressure to keep them from passing the bill.
“They don’t have the votes now and we need to just keep the pressure on to make sure that we never get this thing passed,” said Dreier.
The California congressman, who told CNSNews.com that he was searching for formal ways that Republicans could stop the Slaughter Rule, announced his support Tuesday for a bill that would require a direct vote on the health care bill before it can be sent to Obama.
Dreier also issued a press release Tuesday calling for cameras to be placed in the Rules Committee chamber during the debate over health care reform.